"Very rich in graces and virtues"
I wrote a while back about one of the best Marian devotions that I have found, “Total Consecration” by St. Louis de Montfort. Pope John Paul II once called this devotion “ a turning point in my life”. I would echo that sentiment! “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary” is a 33 day prayer that is renewed each year. I began my consecration in 1999 and am now renewing it for the 10th year. God has given me so many amazing graces in being able to answer His Call to be a faithful priest during these years; I am convinced that the consecration has played a huge role in obtaining these graces. Just as there are so many graces when Jesus comes to us through Mary (e.g., Incarnation), so there are many graces when we go to Jesus through Mary (e.g., Consecration).
The first days of the consecration begin with a reading, either from the Gospel or from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis (great book!). Here is the reading from the sixth day which really struck me as powerful and profound. Also, it dovetails my homily from the Sunday before last.
Imitation: Book 1, Chapter 18
On the example of the Holy Fathers
Look upon the lively examples of the holy Fathers in whom shone real perfection and the religious life, and you will see how little it is, and almost nothing that we do. Alas, what is our life when we compare it with theirs? Saints and friends of Christ, they served our Lord in hunger and in thirst, in cold, in nakedness, in labor and in weariness, in watching, in fasting, prayers and holy meditations, and in frequent persecutions and reproaches. Oh, how many grievous tribulations did the Apostles suffer and the Martyrs and Confessors and Virgins, and all the rest who resolved to follow the steps of Christ! For they hated their lives in this world, that they might keep them in life everlasting. Oh, what a strict and self-renouncing life the holy Fathers of the desert led! What long and grievous temptations did they bear! How often were they harassed by the enemy, what frequent and fervent prayers did they offer up to God, what rigorous abstinence did they practice!
What a valiant contest waged they to subdue their imperfections! What purity and straight forwardness of purpose kept them towards God! By day they labored, and much of the night they spent in prayer; though while they labored, they were far from leaving off mental prayer. They spent all their time profitably. Every hour seemed short to spend with God; and even their necessary bodily refreshment was forgotten in the great sweetness of contemplation. They renounced all riches, dignities, honors, and kindred; they hardly took what was necessary for life. It grieved them to serve the body even in its necessity. Accordingly, they were poor in earthly things, but very rich in grace and virtues.